Wine Travels in France: 2012 Staff Trip (2: Provence)
A mere 2 kilometers from the Mediterranean sea in St-Cyr, Château Pradeaux enjoys a special microclimate within Bandol – dry, windy, and humid – and a terrain dominated by limestone plaques (called ‘lecques’); both factors are very beneficial to the fickle Mourvèdre varietal that composes 85% of their red wines. They are able to harvest late (frequently the last in Bandol to do so) for greater phenolic complexity and still retain acidity.
The fermentation takes place in cement, and usually occurs with the stems; Etienne Portalis claims that the acidity of the stems augments the wines’ structure and longevity.
I asked him whether the fermentations were by native yeast, and he replied “yes, sort of” – his father (below) would inoculate one tank, and then use that tank’s fermenting juice as a ‘mother’ for the others.
He described his own method as “responsive to the vintage”; his goal is native yeast fermentation every year, and in 2011 was able to accomplish it. The wines then spend years in giant oak foudres before being racked and bottled.
(Foudres at Pradeaux)
Every year I look forward to the arrival of Pradeaux’ rosé, but I was stunned with the quality of the 2011 vintage we tasted together; 70% Cinsault, the rest Mourvèdre, it’s the most balanced and luscious vintage I’ve ever had… Two days ago, we received a handful of magnum bottles which we’ll soon offer by the glass!!
..to be continued..